The following are bits of text, mostly in English, observed in and around Tokyo and photographed on a mobile phone. Some are unintentionally amusing, others downright baffling. In some cases, the text is a design element used for decorative purposes, while others are sincere but unsuccessful attempts to communicate to English-readers.

The results are sometimes hilarious, but our intention is not to poke fun at the authors; the same phenomenon happens in reverse when Japanese text is used abroad. We used to regularly see a young man on the bus in Ireland with a nice jacket emblazoned with the bizarre fragment “this building site is…” English looks cool, just like kanji does to some Westerners, who inadvertently get words like “pig” tattooed on their bodies or buy clothes with “death from overwork” printed on them.

Enjoy the pictures.

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Cultural Meanings - Language & Research Services - Dublin, Ireland

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